Eight Gifts of Hanukkah: A Chanukah Movie

Inbar Lavi in Eight Gifts of Hanukkah. Courtesy of Hallmark.

The Hallmark Channel graces us yet again with another Chanukah movie–this time, it’s Eight Gifts of Hanukkah airing on Shabbas.

I have some primary complaints that I need to make. One, there is a wreath on the door. I can understand why the Eye See You optometry office has decorations–compromise between Jew and non-Jew. However, no religious household would place a wreath on their door! We had this exact same conversation last year during Love, Lights, Hanukkah! Please stop putting wreaths on Jewish homes! The other complaint is the community lighting. Maoz Tzur should not be sung until after the candles are lit. During this scene, the song is singing before the candles–electric as they may be–are lit. This is a major no-no and I hope Hallmark gets it right next year. Please note that Mark Jean directs both films.

I would be remiss if I did not mention yet another major complaint. Hallmark is airing this film on a Friday night. If you know anything about Judaism, you know that Jews cannot watch TV on Friday night. This is when Shabbas begins so right off the bat, Hallmark caters to the Jews with a Chanukah movie but airs it when we cannot watch it! I beg of you to please do better, Hallmark. Do not make a Chanukah movie and then air it on Shabbas. And now we get to another primary pet peeve: including Chanukah films as a part of the network’s countdown to Xmas programming. No. Just no. Chanukah is its own thing and not only does the holiday celebrate the miraculous discovery of oil lasting for eight days but the holiday’s roots is in a war against forced assimilation.

Gelt hunt? That’s so Easter. The only thing Jews hunt for is the afikomen during Pesach. If anyone is doing a gelt hunt during Chanukah, it’s only so they can be more like the non-Jews. I’ve heard of gelt drops at public Chanukah lightings but nothing like this. Make it stop already!

Let’s talk about the food staples. Latkes and sufkaniyot are the primary food staples for any Chanukah meal. Chanukah cookies are fine, too, and G-d only knows how much I miss those! Mind you. I’ve gone to family Chanukah parties with other foods but these are the essential foods that must be on the menu. Basically, no potato kugels should be in such a film because the latkes are already taking care of the potatoes.

Outside of the primary complaints, the film itself is not bad. Unlike their prior attempts at Chanukah movies, I wanted this one to go beyond its 85-minute running time. This is what happens when Hallmark actually makes a good Chanukah film. You want to continue hanging out with the characters! As the title implies, Eye See You optometrist Sara (Inbar Lavi) receives eight different gifts for Chanukah with the final one coming during the Mazel Ball. I’m guessing Matzah Ball was taken?

Eight Gifts of Hanukkah.
Eight Gifts of Hanukkah. Courtesy of Hallmark.

There’s quite the love triangle in this one. Someone is dropping off gifts at Sara’s door and we have no idea who it might be. Could it be Adam, the guy who keeps losing his glasses? Or maybe its Nigel Templeton, the the chef she meets through the online dating app. Of course, one of them is dressed as Santa! There’s also her ex-boyfriend, Paul, trying to woo her back after they broke it off four months ago. Finally, we have handyman Daniel (Jake Epstein), who grew up in the house next door. Whoever the secret admirer is, they know how to reach Sara’s heart. They know how much her late grandmother, Rose Heller, means to her. Sara becomes the “Jewish Nancy Drew” in trying to figure it out.

The film plays to the classic Hallmark Channel tropes. In classic romantic fashion, there’s the person that was right there the entire time. And so, it’s not surprising to watch this film play out. And again, the credits give it all away. it doesn’t take a genius to figure out who Sara ends up with. You can see it coming from a mile away!

Eight Gifts of Hanukkah may have its flaws but all things considered, this film could have been worse.

SCREENWRITERS: Donald Martin and Karen Berger
CAST: Inbar Lavi, Jake Epstein, Sheila Tyson, David Kaye, Natalie Malaika, Doron Bell

Eight Gifts of Hanukkah airs December 3 on the Hallmark Channel at 8 PM ET/7 PM CT.

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.